By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has arrived in Venezuela to begin a four-country tour of Latin American nations.
Images on Venezuelan television showed Ahmadinejad, who is making his fifth visit to Venezuela as Iranian president, being welcomed with military honors January 8 at the Caracas international airport.
Ahmadinejad is expected to meet with his ally and fellow critic of U.S. policy, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In remarks ahead of Ahmadinejad’s arrival, Chavez denounced what he described as U.S. attempts to limit ties between Iran and Latin American nations, accusing the U.S. of trying to dominate the world.
“The Yankee empire is trying to stop the growth of Iran as an intermediate power,” said Chavez. “As a matter of fact, today, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in Venezuela and honors us with his visit.”
From Caracas, Ahmadinejad is expected this week to visit Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador — all of whom have had sometimes confrontational relationships with Washington.
Ahead of the trip by the Iranian president, the United States urged Latin American nations not to strengthen ties with Iran.
The State Department said the Islamic Republic’s regime is facing increasing international pressure, including sanctions, over its controversial nuclear program, and is “desperate for friends.”